US dollar at three-year lows, "structurally weak"

    The dollar slumped to its lowest levels since late 2014 in February  [Photo/Thomas White/Illustration/Reuters]
    The dollar slumped to its lowest levels since late 2014 in February [Photo/Thomas White/Illustration/Reuters]

    The dollar edged down against most major currencies on Tuesday, with traders cautious ahead of testimony from new Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell that could determine whether the currency’s recovery from a three-year low has more room to run.

    Powell’s Congressional testimony will be his first public appearance since being sworn in as chairman earlier this month. Traders will watch closely to see whether the new chief will continue on the gradual monetary rate path pursued by his predecessor Janet Yellen, or whether he will take a more hawkish approach.

    Several policymakers have argued the Fed is due for a broad rethink of its approach to inflation, with a faster pace of rate increases needed to keep rising consumer prices in check.

    Dollar slumped

    The dollar slumped to its lowest levels since late 2014 against a basket of major currencies earlier in February, but it has since recovered almost 2 percent.

    On Tuesday, the index was down 0.1 percent at 89.776.

    "The market is a little bit cautious ahead of this speech, but we think he’s likely to stress the continuity of monetary policy...because it wouldn’t be in his interest to have any major market reactions - that would make his job more difficult," said Commerzbank currency strategist Anje Praefcke, in Frankfurt.

    "What he’s likely to state is what we’ve seen in the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) minutes: that the outlook for the US economy has improved considerably, short-term, and that both wages and consumer price inflation have recently surprised on the upside."

    Roy Teo, investment strategist for LGT Bank in Singapore, also said Powell would probably sound optimistic on the economic outlook and that he would stress patience in assessing whether inflation will head higher.

    "The dollar is unlikely to get a major lift after Powell’s speech," Teo said.

    Teo added that this is especially the case given the prevailing market expectations for the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, due on Thursday.

    "Structurally weak"

    Economists polled by Reuters expect the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) to increase 1.5 percent year-on-year in January, which would be the same as December’s pace and still some way off from the Fed’s 2 percent target.

    This week is crammed with US economic data, with consumer confidence, revised fourth-quarter growth, manufacturing and personal income and spending numbers all due.

    “Given that the long-run dynamics for the U.S. economy have not altered – and in some regards deteriorated – we doubt that Fed Chair Powell will want to flip the policy script and prep markets for a more aggressive tightening path just yet,” said ING currency strategist Viraj Patel, in London.

    “A boring and predictable Fed is thus unlikely to be the saviour for a structurally weak dollar.”

    As the dollar eased, the euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.2332, with investors seen unlikely to take on big positions this week ahead of key political events in Europe.

    Italians vote in a national election on Sunday, while the leading political parties in Germany will decide on a coalition deal that could secure Angela Merkel a fourth term as chancellor.

    Against the yen, the dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 107.05 yen.

    “A boring and predictable Fed is thus unlikely to be the savior for a structurally weak dollar.”

    Viraj Patel, currency strategist

    <
    The US Federal Reserve's balancing act

    Counting the Cost

    The US Federal Reserve's balancing act

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Do you really know the price of milk?

    Do you really know the price of milk?

    Answer as many correct questions as you can and see where your country ranks in the global cost of living.

    The Coming War on China

    The Coming War on China

    Journalist John Pilger on how the world's greatest military power, the US, may well be on the road to war with China.